Pastors Only Bathroom
I was visiting a friend recently and she was giving me a tour of her church. She was very excited to show me the ins and outs and the new initiatives that her church was doing for the local poor and homeless. She showed me the food closet, told me about the different programs they started and the amount of budget they’ve set aside for their outreach programs.
As we were walking down the hall to the offices I passed a sign on a door, which in gold lettering read, “Pastors Only Bathroom.” I laughed and pointed out the sign. “Pastor’s perks, ey?”
My friend sighed and shook her head. “No, that sign was put there become some people were unhappy that homeless people kept using the same bathroom that our pastor was using.”
“Yeah…” we continued the tour. We talked about starting barbecues, partnering with home-building groups, building better community. We walked outside and there was a girl leaning against the wall. She was short, had a plethora of tattoos and piercings. She was also very far along in a pregnancy.
“Can we help you?” my friend asked.
“Yeah, umm… I asked the ladies inside if they could give me some gas money. They said they would see what they could do and asked me to wait outside.”
“Okay,” my friend said. “I will see what is going on.” We walked into the office where three older ladies were sitting. She inquired about the girl who was standing outside.
“She was asking for cash. You know we don’t do that. We told her to go outside and we would see what we could do. We can’t do anything for her. It’s the rules.”
“I’ll give her cash,” my friend said.
“You can’t. It’s not policy. If you give her cash then we will be crawling with others looking for cash.”
“Luckily, it is my money and I can do what I want with it.” With that we walked out. My friend handed the girl a twenty and asked if there was anything else she needed. The girl said no, was very grateful and began to tear up a little.
It is difficult to watch churches go through the growing pains of getting back to the mission that Jesus appointed for us. We as Christians getting back to this mission can very easily go through the legalism of helping others—making rules about outreach. Making policy about helping others. Making outreach one more line on the budget. We hand out help, but keep people at arm’s length.
On the one hand, I am excited about the new things this church wants to do to engage “the least of these.” On the other hand, it is frustrating to see that churches have to make efforts to go back to this at all. It is frustrating to see how far from the mission we got in the first place.
On the other hand, another church that I know of is hosting a group of homeless people in their building for the week. Their stay is being well attended to by members of that church who are all volunteering their time. Someone from that congregation is there for 24 hours for the next seven days. I also work with plenty of other churches who are working hard to get outside of their walls to be the hands and feet that Jesus asked us to be.
“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people,
From a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ;
In the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer